The next meeting of the Assembly’s Port committee will take place on Tuesday, August 10, from 10 am to noon at City Hall in the first floor conference room (suite 155). The agenda will be as follows:
1. Updated project schedule:
a. Port/ICRC/MARAD update on project timeline and projected effects on Port users.
b. Army Corps of Engineers comments related to dredging.
c. Port user comments.
2. Review and discussion of project budget distributed at June 10 meeting.
3. Synopsis of port-related discussions at the recent joint work session of the Anchorage & Mat-Su Assemblies (this item may go first).
By the time we convene it will have been about two months between meetings and it’s reasonable for readers to ask why. The answer, quite simply, is that the myriad of agencies associated with the Port expansion project are working to address a variety of issues. To illustrate, below is an abridged e-mail exchange between myself and the US Army Corps of Engineers:
From: Flynn, Patrick P.
Sent: Thursday, July 22, 2010 10:55 AM
To: Churchill, E Allen POA
Good morning Allen,
We are beginning to assemble our agenda for the next Port Committee meeting and my colleagues have expressed interest in an update on TOTE’s request for additional dredging near their temporary berth at the North Extension. Do you have any additional information on this matter? If nothing has changed since we last met, is there any likelihood that new information will develop in the next couple weeks?
From: Churchill, E Allen
Sent: Thursday, July 22, 2010 12:25 PM
To: Flynn, Patrick P.
Cc: Coullahan, Patrick M POA; Anderson, Julie L POA
Not much has changed since we last met. The Port shared a draft phasing plan dated 6-22-2010 with us a couple weeks ago indicating we could be in the current dock configuration for several more years. It shows the new TOTE berth being operational around the 2012 to 2013 time frame and center replacement area (existing dock) occurring in the 2021 time frame. We’ve requested the sheetpile wall offsets from ICRC so we can assess our abilities to dredge near the barge berth but have not been given a date on when that information will be received. A meeting has been tentatively scheduled between the Corps, Port, ICRC, and MARAD for the first week of August to discuss our maintenance capability on the north end for TOTE.
We don’t like the 6-22-2010 phasing plan. Our recommendation to the Port/ICRC is to do everything possible to get TOTE operational on the new fill at the location where the Horizon vessel is scheduled to go, and let their current berth shoal in. We should be able to continue to keep Horizon’s current berth operational since it has been impacted very little these past two winters when we didn’t have maintenance dredging going on. At such time when funding comes forth, the Port could then demo the old TOTE berth (Terminal 3) and then finalize Horizon’s new berth; all before any work is done on the south extension. This would eliminate the need to expand the dredging to the north altogether and eliminate the winter dredging needs in the Terminal 3 area. Additionally, what many folks don’t realize is that the shoaling pattern we currently see in Terminal 3 is also going to exist in the far north corner where the Port wants us to expand our dredge area for TOTE; so the winter dredging problem doesn’t go away with the move as currently shown. Giving TOTE the whole north extension area to “roam” mitigates this problem as well. Hope this helps.
In other words, part of the reason we’re taking our time getting back together is that we want the various agencies to talk through their concerns so we receive updates on the extent of their agreements (and disagreements). For example, I can already fathom some concerns from port administrators and users about the approach advocated in Mr. Churchill’s note and it’s best to get those on the table for internal discussion prior to our meeting.
Readers may have also seen several comments in response to other posts on this topic. To summarize, they’ve roughly fallen into three categories:
Regarding costs and revenue sources, it’s tough to nail down a final cost because timelines keep shifting to later dates and the Port’s latest update only addressed the North Extension (where TOTE & Horizon are slated to have “vacation” homes while the remainder of the project is constructed). Total cost to complete that phase is projected at $298 million and includes funding from the state ($100M) and federal ($138.4M) governments, Port funds ($40M, generated by user fees) and commercial paper (also known as debt, in the amount of $35). Readers quick with math will note those fund sources are in excess of $298 million and the reason is two-fold: the debt is needed to maintain cash-flow to keep the project moving while awaiting appropriation and release of public funds, and the additional funds are slated to be dedicated to future project phases. In any event committee members have further questions about this matter, including the stability of various fund sources, hence it being part of our agenda.
As to the design, the data we’ve received from project personnel indicate this is the largest application of this specific version of open-cell sheet pile technology (it was patented by a local engineering firm). While I understand concerns that might invoke, I spoke with one of the project engineers I’ve known for many years and came away from that conversation comfortable that testing of completed phases indicate acceptable stability and safety. I know it’s different than what many people are used to but it has worked in a variety of applications, both in Alaska and elsewhere.
Most of the problems folks have heard about involve various difficulties associated with driving sheet pile. Those problems have occurred, much as many projects encounter bumps along the way (don’t get me started on my home-improvement efforts). There are claim processes that have occurred or will occur between contractors and project managers to resolve the errata so, while everyone would obviously prefer a seamless process, that just isn’t how the world works.
That’s all for now, keep those comments and questions coming!
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